Elias Elia’s buyback of bits of collapsed E-Clear investigated

Actions by the founder of the credit card processing firm have incurred the wrath of creditors
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The Independent Online

Elias Elia, the founder of E-Clear, the credit card processing firm that collapsed with debts of more than £100m, is seeking to buy chunks of his company back from the administrator.

A Cypriot firm thought to be linked to Mr Elia recently paid around £325,000 to BDO, the accountant administering E-Clear, to buy back assets from the wreckage of the firm.

The money is currently being held by lawyers Field Fisher Waterhouse.

The cash is thought to be an initial down payment for NordFinanz Bank, a German bank bought by Mr Elias for £15m when he ran E-Clear.

The Cypriot company has promised to make further payments in the future to complete a full buyout.

A source close the administrator confirmed that a payment from Mr Elia had been received. It is thought that Mr Elia is also looking to buy up the computer systems used by E-Clear.

One creditor familiar with the process said: "Clearly Mr Elias has access to significant sums of money if he can stump up £325,000 to buy up assets. He also wants the computers by all accounts. There really needs to be a full investigation into what the hell is going on here. I understand the administrator has a duty to maximise cash for creditors, but this feels wrong."

The Serious Fraud Office has launched an official investigation into E-Clear, which collapsed in January.

Derek Tullett, a former associate of Mr Elia, who was also thought to be a shareholder in NordFinanz Bank, is believed to be continuing with a legal action against Mr Elia over unpaid loans. However, Mr Tullett was unavailable for comment.

BDO, the accountants, said last week that it was still trawling through E-Clear's finances, but declined to comment on specifics of the case.

The investigation is already believed to have cost creditors, which include the airline Globespan and the Canadian travel firm Sunwing, hundreds of thousands of pounds in fees payable to BDO.

Creditors will be hoping that BDO manages to recover money from the possible sale of a Knightsbridge property, believed to be 29 Rutland Court, which was bought by Mr Elia during his tenure at E-Clear.

However, it is thought that Coutts, the bank, already has a charge against the £3.5m property, meaning that the amount of money BDO will be able to recoup from the asset is likely to be less than first thought.

A report earlier this month claimed that Mr Elia used his director's account at E-Clear to buy a brand-new, £135,000 Ferrari in the spring of 2008, and a £155,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom, with the number plate ECL 34R, in May of the same year.

Mr Elia has continued to deny any suggestion of wrongdoing, claiming he is personally owed millions from the collapse of his company. He was also unavailable for comment.